Kingston doing more in Syria
Campaigning for refugees
The Syrian refugee crisis is the greatest human crisis since the Second World War. I have been leading a call for local Councils to do more because although our Government has put millions into the region of Syria to help there has been little done to bring the most needy to the UK. The Government has capped at 750 the total numbers that can come and when pressed on this issue I argue strongly that this represents the managed and controlled migration that many politicians argue for. In fact, only today, the Prime Minister has responded to the calls for more to come with a modest increase in the cap.
But putting those arguments aside the UK has historically been an open-hearted nation that does what it can to help those in most need and I believe we in Kingston - and all Councils - should be playing a greater part.
I have therefore, as a starting point, written to all faith leaders in the Borough asking for their help in identifying housing so that we can start to contribute to the humanitarian call of those dispossessed by the conflict. I have also sent them a shorter letter which I have asked them to distribute to their communities asking for their help.
I have copied the text of that letter below:
As the Leader of Kingston Council, I am writing to you in partnership with the Chairs of Kingston's Interfaith Forum to request your help to bring 50 Syrian refugees, currently living in Syria and surrounding countries, to be housed and relocated in our Borough.
The conflict in Syria and implications of it on surrounding countries has been compared to the worst crisis since the Second World War, particularly in terms of the numbers of people who have been displaced. According to Human Appeal International, over 10.8 million extremely vulnerable Syrians are living in unsanitary tents and makeshift shelters. Millions of people are trapped in rapidly deteriorating circumstances lacking even the basics needed to survive, including food, water, shelter, hygiene facilities and health care. Over two million children are no longer in school.
The UK Government has spent unprecedented amounts of money in the region as aid and we should be proud of those efforts. But we believe there is more that can be done by the open-hearted and generous efforts of the people of this country. Kingston cannot solve the refugee crisis, but it can play its small part in rebuilding broken lives and sending a clear signal to other parts of the UK that they too can do more.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has identified specific vulnerable people who require resettlement in another country. We are working with the Home Office to find ways to house and resettle 50 of these individuals here in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames through their Vulnerable Person's Relocation Scheme.
In order to make this happen we urgently need your help to find homes. The Council does not have spare homes and we have a waiting list that is significantly longer than the total number of homes we own. In conversation with the Home Office it is clear that they would not allow refugees to share a home with those who might have a spare room. Therefore, homes provided need to be self contained and available to rent for at least a 12 month period. We are asking if you, or anyone you know, would be willing to rent a property at an affordable yet competitive rate that would allow the refugees to come to Kingston for sanctuary and resettlement.
Funding will come from the European Union to support resettlement schemes, which will be managed by the Home Office. Once individuals arrive their rents will be paid through housing benefits. The cost of keeping the property vacant until they arrive will be met by the Home Office as will their medical costs and any social care needs for the first year of their arrival. They will be allocated a case worker to support their resettlement, which will be arranged for through the Council and funded by the Home Office.
Due to the urgency of the situation and the limited availability of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme Funding, we are asking that you get back to us and let us know if you, or someone you know, would be prepared to provide a rental property by 31st July 2015 by contacting
David Hill, Lead Officer, Accommodation Services on Tel: 0208 547 5412 and Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also enclosing a letter directly from myself, as the Leader of the Council, appealing to local people to come together on this project. On the reverse of the letter is a further information sheet and I’d ask that you please distribute these at your regular community gatherings so that as many people as possible are alerted to this important issue.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter, we sincerely hope you will be able to assist and support our efforts in this very important cause.